A popular anime around the world, Sword Art Online has already spawned three games across the PSP, Vita, and PS4. Hollow Realization is the next adventure set in the world of the Sword Art’s Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online RPG, or VRMMORPG for short, but the overarching plot will be familiar, where the players have become trapped, unable to log out of this game.
Created with the help of Reki Kawahara, the author behind the series, Hollow Realization takes place following the events of Lost Song, but have been designed for newcomers in mind, as Kirito, the game’s hero, and his group enter Sword Art: Origin, a part of the VRMMO saved on the game’s original servers. It is also a place that is not welcome to human players, but Kirito ventures here after accepting a quest that everyone else seems to be avoiding. This leads him to becoming embroiled in story that features an NPC called Premier, though little is known about her.
While Kirito does have an established look within the anime you’ll be able to customise the appearance within Hollow Realization. Players will be able to choose the gender, skin colour, height, body type, and eye colour. In fact, individual eyes can be given different colours, which isn’t that common in general gaming customisation. Once you’ve decided how you think Kirito’s avatar should look then it’s off to adventure in the new virtual horizon.
Joining Kirito will be characters familiar to those who have played the previous games or watched the anime, including Asuna, Silica, Lisbeth, Leafa, and Sinon. You’ll party up with these characters to explore Origin, discover its secrets, and fight off various enemy types that had long been existing in some peace before Kirito entered their world. When you get involved in combat there are a number of options to take.
First off, the actual combat is very fast paced, as the characters rush around to take down the beasts that roam Origin. From small creatures that move quickly to the more lumbering, bigger creatures that have powerful attacks, you can see the creatures going about their lives, and if you don’t fancy getting involved in a scrap you can just run in a different direction. Each of the NPCs in the party will do their own thing, but you can issue commands throughout a battle to prioritise tactics.
Kirito has a range of skills that can be accessed as well, which are present on a menu that appears on the bottom of the screen. These skills allow Kirito to move faster, take less damage, become more powerful, with other buffs available to help with different attributes. Skills can be activated at any time, so you don’t have to worry too much about trying to activate them mid-battle.
With or without activated skills your damage output can increase depending on your combo multiplier, which incrases if you’re carrying out strikes that hit at similar times to the rest of your party members. As this increases, the damage an enemy takes also goes up, but should a combo be broken that multiplier will reset. Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization’s combat system is really simple to get into initially, but will require some time to properly get a hold on all of the skills and how they complement each other.
Within this faux MMO setting, Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization won’t just be a single player affair. There is a multiplayer where you can team up with other players to explore Origin. Parties can hold a maximum of eight characters, which are split between four human players and four NPC characters. Naturally, the co-operative multiplayer will be best for trying to tackle the tougher quests available in the game, as well as taking part in raids as well.
As someone who hasn’t had much exposure to the Sword Art Online series, despite many recommendations to do so, my brief time with the Hollow Realization demo showed the potential for an engaging game world with lots of content to explore. The environments shown by game producer Yosuke Futami gave a glimpse at a world that could be able to draw new and old fans in with easewhen the game is released this autumn for PS4 and Vita.